Essay about a new, "nature friendly" plastic. pics of process can be found at

Essay by Clint HenryHigh School, 12th gradeA+, December 2003

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The idea of a nature friendly plastic has been floating around in chemists' minds for several decades. Something that is affordable, easy to make, biodegradable, and most importantly, just as durable as the plastic we use in so many different aspects of life. (IV bags, Chairs, toys, and bullet proof vests to name a few) has eluded many of the top chemists from around the world for far too long. That is, until now.

Scientists in Hawaii have developed "a biological reactor that converts a slurry of food waste into a biodegradable plastic". That's correct, we Americans, who throw out over 22 million tons of waste each year have actually been throwing away a much-needed solution towards the growing landfill problem. (Food waste causes landfills to stink and produce methane, a greenhouse gas. Moreover, the waste has been known to leach into and contaminate groundwater)

The process in which this effect takes place is called "Acid Release".

While innovative, the concept is not entirely new. "The British chemicals company ICI started making the biodegradable polymer (PHB) about 10 years ago. Although popular, PHB was 10 times as expensive as standard polymers because it was made using pure sugar and an organic acid."

Now Jian Yu and his contemporaries at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute in Honolulu believes they've found an extremely affordable process to reach the same effect. Yu first collected food scraps from a local restaurant and blended them with water to create a rather disgusting concoction that he placed in a warm, airtight container. Bacteria began multiplying rapidly and began breaking down the organic molecules of the food, releasing acid. The acid was siphoned off via a pump into a second container, while more slurry was added to the mix. "(Yu) found that the acid molecules in...